Thursday, 2 April 2015


I don't think I need to tell any of you what The Blair Witch Project was or the impact it had on the genre. It doesn't matter what you think about Found Footage — without The Blair Witch Project it would not have had the powerful resurgence that has seen it flood the DVD shelves of your local home entertainment store.
Now, a few of you may not have kept tabs on the work of the film's two directors since they hit the headlines with the wonderful BWP.
Daniel Myrick has had his share of quality releases, including The Objective. Meanwhile co-director Eduardo Sánchez has had a string of atmospheric genre hits including Seventh Moon, fun alien abduction flick Altered and the creepy as Hell Lovely Molly.
Next Monday (6th April) sees the UK dvd release of his latest, Exists, a return to Found-Footage, this time focusing on America's favourite monster, the Sasquatch.
Can Big Foot deliver a big hit for Haxan Films? Or is this Found Footage that I'd prefer had stayed lost?
Read on...

EXISTS (2014)

Dir: Eduardo Sánchez
Starring: Chris Osborn, Samuel Davis, Dora Madison Burge, Roger Edwards, Denise Williamson, J.P. Schwan, Brian Steele

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

Brothers Brian (Osborn) and Matt (Davis) decide to head out to their uncle's remote woodland cabin. So along with Matt's girlfriend Dora (Burge) and their friends Todd (Edwards) and Elizabeth (Williamson), plus a whole host of handheld cameras and Go Pros that tech nerd Brian has insisted on bringing to document the trip, the brothers pile into a car and head off.
However, as they drive along the isolated road they accidentally hit something. They get out of the car to investigate but are disturbed by some horrifying scream-like howls coming from the woods. The group soon jump back into their vehicle and continue to the cabin.
As they near it they discover that the road has become blocked by a fallen tree and are forced to continue on foot. Upon reaching the cabin they are dismayed to discover that it seems poorly tended to, a situation that is only exacerbated when they discover a wild pig roaming around inside. 
Giving up for the night, the group opt to sleep in the car, where, once again, they hear the whooping, hollering cries from within the trees.
This causes Brian to talk about a mysterious event that caused their uncle to stop coming to the cabin... and the creature he saw.
The next day the group head to a nearby lake for a day of fun, but later on Brian spots something prowling within the woods. As the sun sinks, the group find themselves forced to acknowledge Brian's sighting when they become aware of a hulking, shaggy furred creature, constantly stalking them. 
What exactly is the beast? What does the creature want? And can the group survive its attentions?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): The trailer for Exists led me to believe that the film would be a frenetic and fun throwaway action-horror, an hour long chase sequence bookended by some Blair Witch Project-esque whispering to a shaky camera. However, it offers so much more.
Exists is a creepy, atmospheric creature feature, one that manages to crank up the tension and build real scares without having to resort to lashings of gore, copious jump scares and a whole host of full-on monster moments.
No, this is a film that does its work the old fashioned way — by telling a strong and unsettling story, using the power of suggestion to get your imagination firing and bringing the monster to life in a very effective manner.
One of the things that the film does well is to keep things moving at a brisk pace with a simple plotline. The story, by Jamie Nash, is efficient, compelling and maintains fine internal logic. All too often a Horror movie gets this wrong (especially Found Footage), but Exists makes sense throughout. 
In this film the assorted cameras are shown early (and explained I hasten to add) while Brian's motive to keep filming is explained as he attempts to convince the others of what he and his uncle believe they saw.
As I mentioned during my review of The Doom's Chapel Horror, there is a legitimate skill to shooting a movie and for it to feel natural and not overly 'filmic'. Sánchez does a fine job here, while cinematographer John W Rutland keeps the film visually compelling, bringing out both the lush and oppressive side of the forest with equal aplomb, without compromising its authenticity. Meanwhile editors Andrew Eckblad and Andy Jenkins deftly weave together the assorted 'film feeds' to make this feel like a continuous and flowing storyline, yet not getting lost along the way or foregoing realism.
Of course, this simple but well-told tale relies on believable performances from its small cast to maintain that believability.
Luckily the cast are pretty strong. I especially enjoyed the work of Davis and Osborn, who had a real chemistry as the two brothers. As the cooler, more brash Matt, Davis nailed his role, turning this on its head nicely as the events of the film become more dire.
My favourite performance was probably that of Osborn. Early on I was sure that his character's initial role of 'funny, nerdy guy' would grate as the movie went on, but in much the way that Davis gets to show some range as his character's arc progresses, Osborn is given the chance to show some considerable depth that you may not see coming from his earlier scenes. This is a talented young actor, and I shall certainly be looking out for him in the future.
Also, I would like to praise Burge for her sterling work for her portrayal of escalating panic, grief and fear as she reacts to the horrors unfolding around her and Rogers' cocky turn as the would-be hero who comes to realise that he may have bitten off a little more than he can chew.
Of course, the main thing that all the cast have to depict (and do an impeccable job at) is fear at the marauding Sasquatch. They do this well, and with good reason — the beast in Exists is terrifying.
I found the sound effects used for the Sasquatch's raging and wounded calls particularly chilling. This is used wonderfully throughout the movie and Matt Davies' work in creating them for Studio Unknown is to be applauded. Bravo sir!
But it isn't just the sound that brings the big guy to life. No, there are a slew of fantastic special effects shots that are wonderfully faithful to the infamous1967 Patterson-Gimlin film. The creature seems so much more than a man in a suit, and with good reason. There are well-timed and unobtrusive CG shots scattered throughout while the fantastic practical effects work and a wonderfully animalistic performance from the imposing Steele make this, quite possibly, the greatest Sasquatch to ever appear in a movie. The effects teams, including the uktra-talented folks at Spectral Motion, the great Everett Byrom III and visual effects wiz Thomas D Moser, really have done work to be proud of. Tremendous.
This leads to the final strong point of the movie — how well executed the Sasquatch attack sequences are. From a heart-pounding chase sequence in which a black shaggy shape easily keeps pace with a frantically pedalling mountain biker, to the terrifying scene in a camper van on a cliff-edge (followed by THAT leaping shot), the unbridled savagery and bestial power of the creature is brought to life in nerve-shredding fashion. This is a horror movie that does it right, slow-building creepy, ominous atmosphere building to an intense crescendo. Great work, Mr Sánchez.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I've said it before so I'll say it now to get it out of the way. This is a Found Footage film and, as such, if you've had enough of woodland shaky cam, Exists is going to be a chore.
I think Found Footage still has plenty of life left in it, but I know a few of you have become a little jaded. Exists is a very good example of what Found Footage can do, but it still falls victim to the problems inherent in the genre.
We have cameras still being used when any sane person would have thrown anything weighing them down in the direction of their assailant while sprinting in the opposite direction. We have a few too many fortuitous moments where the camera just happens to be pointing at exactly the right place to reveal something creepy or ominous - even at times when the camera is casually discarded or dropped. We have a mysterious and seemingly all-knowing editor who has collected these various feeds (even after some would quite probably have been unrecoverable) and then spliced them together in such a way as to keep an element of mystery, even though some cameras would clearly have given us much better viewing angles of the thing attacking the group.
But these are things I've come to expect from the genre, it's a little like complaining about the near universal lack of phone coverage or constant stream of eye-rollingly awful decisions made in Slasher flicks. It is what it is.
One problem I did notice is the somewhat shallow characterisation. There are only a handful of characters and they do have their own rather simple arcs, but primarily they are here to react to the star of the show — Big Foot. There's nothing too wrong with this, I look at it as the film showing unerring focus of intent but it does make it more difficult to fully sympathise with them. 
This is worsened by the fact that the few character-building scenes we are given before the shit hits the fan portrays the group as unbearably smug and shallow hipsters taking part in beard-singeing, skinny-dipping, paintball-bullying and 'dude, bro!'-style cycling shenanigans that only make you want to see Sasquatch start hurling trees at them all the sooner.
I understand this is done to show the confidence and bravado get stripped away from them as their plight worsens, but that must have been possible while keeping them less irritating? Thankfully the sheer intensity of the big guy's attacks later in the film combined with some heart-felt acting do a decent job of keeping the audience onside... just.

THE VERDICT: Much like the large-footed, furry chap himself, good films about Big Foot are very rare.
Thankfully, Exists is one of them.
Boasting arguably the best Sasquatch to appear onscreen since the Patterson-Gimlin tape, creepy atmosphere and intense fright scenes, if you're not yet burnt out by the Found Footage craze, this is one to watch. An entirely different type of chiller to Lovely Molly, this is nonetheless another hit from the immensely talented Sánchez. Check it out when it hits shops near you this Easter Monday.
Until then, why not check out the movie's Facebook page — a word of warning though, there are spoilers present...

If you haven’t already, do please check out and like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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